tv Naval Navigation in the War of 1812 CSPAN March 28, 2015 1:05pm-1:31pm EDT
the opposite night, we have it on the second floor, the first floor, and also the kitchens fireplace. -- kitchen's fireplace. this is where you are given a chance to get an up close and personal look at the architectural style. 2015 is an anniversary of it being built. it was built in 1665. we are able to secure the preservation efforts in order to hopefully keep it around for another 350 years. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs anytime by visiting our website c-span.org/history. >> up next, a discussion on naval navigation during the war of 1812. at the outset, the british royal navy was far more sophisticated than the american navy.
we will hear about the tools that sailors on both sides of the conflict used to dominate the sea. the octagon house in washington, d.c., where the treaty of dad was signed 200 years ago hosted this event. it is about 25 minutes. >> welcome hearing i am kyle dalton, the administrator. i am also the author of a blog. today, i am going to be talking about the united states navy, the war of 1812 and navigation. all three of these topics intersect at the octagon house. the eldest son of the owners of the house, john taylor iv, was enlisted in the navy in 1890 as a midshipman. it was his responsibility to learn the trade of sailors and officers, to learn how to command ships, and how to work them. the united states navy was
surprisingly effective in the war of 1812. i say surprisingly because people did not really expected. thomas jefferson aimlessly said that capturing canada would be a mere matter of marching. he also thought very little of our navy. we could not stand up against the might of the royal navy. this was a popular opinion of the time. the royal navy defeated the spanish, french, dutch, and even portions of the russian navy. to imagine that such a small country that could not possibly build anything bigger than a forget -- frigate, to think that a nation like that could stand up to the royal navy, was beyond the capacity of most americans. we did have an advantage. that advantage was in the super frigate. that is the modern term. they were built with incredibly thick calls -- hulls and strong
wood, white oak, i believe. it was known to repel cannonballs. that is where the uss constitution got its nickname, old ironsides. it was the constitution that john taylor iv served to the board. the state of virginia gave him a sword for his intrepidity and valor. you can see the sword outside as soon as we are done. a medal was given to him for his service against a british frigate. what we don't have out there are the more common things, some of the more everyday items that would be used by officers and sailors of the uss constitution. we have reproductions to carry across the idea of what those would have been like and how they would have been used. as a midshipman, it was his
responsibility to learn the trade of an officer and chief among those skills was navigation. navigation is, simply put, knowing where you are where you are going, and how to get there. it requires tools any schoolchild would recognize and tools like a standard compass. eighth eight -- a floating magnetized needle that points to the north pole. the north pole moves five miles a year, but it is up around the arctic circle. this will always point in that direction. if you know where north is, you will know which way you are going. every school child knows how to use one of these. it is a very valuable item nonetheless. it is valuable partly because it indicates where you are going. you can also track that in a
method called dead reckoning. dead reckoning was not the only method of finding your way but it was one used commonly at the time. dead reckoning relies on your direction, you're heading. it relies on speed. it relies on time. if you have these three things, speed, direction time, you have a pretty good idea where you are at the it already talked about how to find your bearing. to find your speed required a different tool. that is this here. this is a chip log shaped like a chip. they would sometimes use a literal log. this is weighted with a piece of lead. it keeps it up and down, almost like an anchor behind the ship. it will stay roughly in place as
the ship moves. as the ship goes it unspools. along the line are a number of knots. when the first one passes by usually a colorful one, whoever is counting will call out, turn. that is in reference to another fellow helping him out who has a tiny glass. when the glass is flipped, you start counting the knots. each knot designates one nautical mile per hour. each knot that goes by before the sand has emptied is your speed. all you do is count the knots and you know how fast you're going. you have your direction. you have your speed. we have to work in time as well. time relies on another glass, a larger one, a half-hour glass. each time it is emptied, a bell
will sound on the ship. this would be familiar to anyone who has worked aboard a naval vessel, for example. the church at the naval academy sounds bell time. the day is split into watches. each watches four hours long. 8-12 12-4, 4-8. it goes all day long so half the crew can be working at half the crew can rest. it is also a way of keeping track of all this information. every half-hour, every time the bella sounded, you record your speed and your bearing. that is recorded with this, a traverse board. the traverse board is really just a piece of wood with holes carved in it and pegs. the top half you may recognize is a compass rose, a replica of what you have on the face of the
compass. every half-hour, you put a peg into the direction you're going. there are eight holes in any given direction. you can keep track of your time. by doing so, you track the changes in the bearing of your ship. down here, we keep track of speed. there are eight rows indicating each half-hour in the four-hour watch. holes designate the knots, your speed. you place the peg to designate your speed. here you have your time, direction, and speed, all three things you need. the navigator would take this board at the end of the watch and record it. he would go to his chart, a map and find where they were last at , where they were before the start of the watch, and draw lines. for the first half-hour, we were heading north-northwest at four knots. half of that is two.
he would draw a line for two miles. from there, it was northwest at two knots. one nautical mile. you draw the line you keep doing this until you have all these lines and wherever it finishes is where you are probably. there are a lot of things that go wrong with this. a lot can happen in a half-hour. you could be going four nkknots, the wind could die, and then you go nowhere. maybe the bearings have changed quite a bit. maybe where you started was not actually where you were. there is no way to correct that with this. this is not a perfect system. even so, it does a pretty good job. this is being used into the 21st century by dutch sailors. this is not a completely unreliable system, but it is not the only one you should use. any navigator worth his salt in the day would use more than one method of navigation and you
want to come to an aggregate, a mean an average of a bunch of different systems. dead reckoning is all well and good, but by taylor's day, they also had latitude and longitude. they had had it for quite a while, but taking readings of it took some time to figure out. as you probably know, they are the individual lines on a map. latitude can be found easily because the earth is shaped like a ball, but not a perfect fear. the widest part of the earth is the equator and because it is the widest part of the earth because it is geographically distinct from anything else north or south of it, you can measure with it. you can do that through a few means. the earliest mariners might have used something like this. this is a gunther's quadrant.
it relies on the north star, polaris. they have to rely on polaris because unlike every other star in the sky, polaris is relatively fixed in place. if you can measure the distance from polaris to the horizon, you can figure out your latitude. it is a very simple system. go through these two holes until you sight the north star. you see where the bob lead. you take down the bearing. this is also not perfect because the north star is only visible in the northern hemisphere. if you go south of the equator this is just a piece of lead. it can be measured -- it can be used to measure the angle to the sun.
where you are north or south of the equator, with extreme exceptions, you are going to see this on. if you can measure the distance between the sun and the horizon at solar noon, when the sun is at its highest point, that will give you your latitude. all you have to do is a few calculations. you don't want to stare at the sans. -- sun. that is not a good idea. there are better ways to do it. you could do it with this, but it requires two people. it up until the sun -- you can line it up until the sun shows on the ground. it is too small. the larger your quadrant is, the more accurate kisses. astronomers have room-sized quadrants. a ship does not allow you to have a room-sized quadrant. instead, they would use
eventually the sextant. you have probably seen this. it is popular in art and that sort of thing. you will see it on certain government logos. this is top-of-the-line. the sextant is the best way to find your latitude. it does measure the angle of the sun to the horizon. it can be used north or south of the equator. it has the nifty sunshades. it is also more accurate. there is a lot going on. at the top is a mirror. that mirror is meant to reflect the sun. it reflects the sun from this mirror down to this one. this mirror is paired with a glass, a little wind drove -- window that you peer through. you look to the horizon. you move this back-and-forth until the sun is reflected from
here to here thus measuring the angle at the bottom. it is more exact than a gunther's quadrant. it gives you your latitude as accurately as possible. it was used all the way until the invention of the gps. it is a very accurate tool. latitude was easy enough. longitude was a different problem. longitude is the north and south lines. they go from one pole to the next. part of the problem with the longitude is that there is no geographical area on earth that is different enough for you to measure away from. there is no real point in the earth that you can tell you are east or west of it we had to settle on a primary the, zero degrees. today, it sits over greenwich england. there is a great observatory there, the royal observatory. england won all the wars and got
to tell people what they were going to use. it is not just those reasons. england was the one that eventually solved the longitude problem. by 1773, there was a clock maker, john harrison, who developed an incredibly accurate clock. this clock moves -- loses less than one second per day and can withstand the rigors of sea. these chronometers would give you time, but not your time, the time at the prime ready and -- meridian. it is pretty easy to figure out local time. we can figure out what time it is today by looking around us. that was true back then, too. finding time where you are not that is a whole other issue. that is why this clock was important. if you know what time it is where you are not and where you are, you can measure the distance between the two.
3:00 in the afternoon here while it is noon in california. that is a fixed distance. you know what time it is where you are and where you are not. you have longitude. all that comes together, the sextant, the chronometer, all the math to tell you where you are. that is kind of a lot of work. of course, there are possibilities of mistake, human error. it is more reliable when you are closer to land. it is preferred to be close to land because you can use other methods. you can combine the dead reckoning, latitude and longitude readings, along with a form of triangulation. that relies on this. it's a correction of the arabic word for "the ruler." it's a telescope atop a compass.
you find a fixed point on shore a lighthouse, a rock, something you can find on a map. you peer through the telescope until you have a nice and centered. you check the compass. you go back to the map, find the point, and draw a line through it, across that very. -- bearing. you know you are somewhere on that line. to get more exact, you look at another point. you draw through that the same way. where the lines meet is where you are. the more sightings you take, the more pieces of land you mark down, the more accurate you are going to be. this is a reliable system. another way that is more specific to the chesapeake of getting an idea where you are relies on a lead line. this is the lead line. called so because there is a piece of lead at the end of a line. this is hollow and it is filled with tallow, be fat.
it is tossed off a sick. knots -- off the ship. knots pass by. when it hits the bottom, the number of knots that have passed by as the depth. that lets you know how deep the water is. when you pull it up, the tallow will have picked up something off the seafloor, sand, shell rocks. this is very useful for the immediate sailing of the ship to make sure you don't run aground. it is also useful for navigation into the chesapeake. that is because the seafloor leading into the chesapeake is a very gradual rise. the content of the soil, the content of the seafloor mod changes slowly. -- mud changes slowly. if you know how deep the water is and you know what soil you are bringing up, you have a
pretty good idea how far from sure you are. putting all of these together, and using our aggregate, our average of all the different techniques someone could be very confident in his position at sea, in the day, wherever. these are the skills john had to master. by the end of the war, he was lieutenant. he was greatly honored for his service aboard the uss constitution. i invite you to look at the presentation sword and metal. if you have any questions, i will open the floor. >> the charts that they had, i thought -- [inaudible] kyle: it is the same thing. it is a different name for it.
>> [inaudible] kyle: you would match this with the chart. you would cite the location on shore, take the bearing, and market on the chart itself. -- mark it on the chart itself. all of these rely on charts. i see what you are saying. it can also be used in celestial navigation. i mentioned it for use and land navigation. it can be used to cite stars, the moon that sort of thing. there is a complex way of finding your location at the based on the location of the moons of jupiter. that competed with the chronometer for some time. it required three or four hours of trigonometry. it failed out. this can be used for that. it can be used for celestial navigation. it also can be used for landmarks and shoreline navigation.
>> gunther -- kyle: i am pretty sure it is the same one. the astronomer in the 17th century. >> how well were they able to maintain and control -- kyle: really good at it. this was the height of the age of sale. in the 18th century, they were masters. they have really got it. by the 19th century, they have really got it down. one of the thing that benefits them is the wider availability of copper because the bottom of the ship would be fouled. barnacles would grab onto it. the more that group, the slower the ship would get. -- that grew, the slower the ship would get. it really dragged it down.
by the early 19th century everybody has copper. that keeps things from growing on it and it eats the speed up. it keeps a more consistent and faster speed. that is one of the innovations. they had many others. by purely 19th-century 19th century, they are very good at keeping the speed constant depending on the wind. that is the kicker. there is only so much you can do. >> what for some of the other innovations? kyle: there are extra sales that come out the side. they stick out the side of the ship and add more canvas. that helps to push them along. there are more advanced anchors. if the wind is totally dead and you need to move, you can u se an anchor in front of you. a boat in front of you drop the anchor and you real yourself to
it. the constitution did that to get away from a british fleet. they sailed into a british fleet and they came after them. the constitution carried itself off. even when there is no wind at all, you still have some options available to you. >> [inaudible] kyle: it does. that is another thing that affects the board. you can have a heading. look at where the bow was pointing. -- isp pointing. it may not be exactly where you're going. you cannot rely on dead reckoning. charts are never accurately recorded, accurately traced, all over the world, until the 1850's. this was done by a fellow at the observatory here. he tracked all of them.
there is a great book called "tracks in the sea." or now, they're going by what they know. they are going by well-known things like tradewinds, things they had experience with. that is sort of experience. all right. thank you for joining us today. as i said, feel free to check out some of the artifacts and just the other room. >> you are watching american history tv on c-span3. like us on facebook at c-spanhistory. >> the voting rights march in 1965 through the attention of the world when activists were attacked by police at the start of the march in selma, alabama on march 7. that day became known as bloody sunday. 18 days later, with armed
protection from the u.s. army and alabama national guard, the protesters completed the four-day march from selma to montgomery. next, a commemorative ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the march 25th rally. the keynote speaker is reverend bernice king, martin luther king jr.'s daughter, who was ceo of the king center for nonviolent social change. this is about 30 minutes. >> thank you, dr. stuart, and to all who are gathered here. my brothers and sisters, what a beautiful day the lord has given us to gather and to celebrate, and more importantly, to act. in the spirit of the movement, it is my honor and privilege to introduce the one who will bring the message to us